Q&A: Penguin Prison’s Chris Glover, Part 2
By Christian Robinson on November 30, 2011
Chris Glover a.k.a Penguin Prison garnered attention for taking his immense musical talent, honed by way of New York City's Professional Performance Arts School and Bard College. With this combination of his education with the various influences typical of someone brought up in the 80's and 90's to craft upbeat, addictive pop music with a quirky, and even humorous tenor, you get Penguin Prision. Beginning with some early demos and re-imaginings of songs by other up-and-coming acts such as Marina and The Diamonds, and culminating in October's release of his eponymous debut by Downtown Records, Penguin Prison has assured his position on the soundtrack to many a dance party in the coming year.
In Part 1 of our interview we talked about the album, tour plans, and video release for "Don't Fuck With My Money". In this portion, we talk about the Occupy movement, Lana Del Rey, and his musical roots.
You talk about wanting the album to be fun, but you deal with topics that aren’t necessarily heavy, but certainly real and reflective of genuine experiences that people are having right now, like economic struggles and social changes. How are you able to do both?
Chris Glover: When I write my lyrics I never want them to be too serious or not serious. It’s always a mixture, like saying something serious in a funny way so people can laugh and have fun, but I’m also being serious and saying something substantial. With Multi Millionaire, it’s a song about credit card debt, which is obviously relevant in our society today. A lot of people have credit card debt, but it’s sort of in a humorous way saying, “Oh well, fuck it, I have all this credit card debt but let me act like a millionaire even though I’m totally broke.” sort of in a self defeating way, like “let me get a lot of credit cards and spend a lot of money and I’ll never pay them back , I’ll just...fuck you. I’m gonna spend a lot of money with this piece of plastic with no intention of ever paying it back.” I would never do that in reality, but it’s a song, a fantasy, something I would like to do. It is weird because some people do do that actually, like some people have so much credit card debt it’s crazy. That’s a modern thing. I don’t think that was happening 50 years ago or 30 years ago. That’s something with our culture today. I’m always trying to write about things that are in our society that people don’t wanna think about, but I want to make people laugh at themselves and have fun.
Speaking of fun, you just shot the video for Don’t Fuck With My Money over at Occupy Wall Street, how was that experience?
It was cool. I wrote the song obviously before OWS began, but I felt like some of the lyrics reflected the sentiments that a lot of people have right now. I was inspired by OWS and other protests that have been happening all over the country so I decided to film the video there. We went on the march from Zucotti Park to Times Square and filmed all sorts of crazy stuff that happened so, I’m really excited about it and I like the way it came out.
There was a bit of a misunderstanding surrounding that whole process, what was that all about?
Yeah some people sort of misinterpreted why I filmed it there. I think when people see the video they’ll understand that I meant the video as a tribute to what people were doing there and not exploitation of it. The sentiment of the video captures that completely and when people see it they’ll understand that the video was done with good intentions and hopefully the video can help to bring the message out to more people than it has already reached. A lot of things are being expressed down there, and that’s what people are criticizing the protesters for “they don’t have a unified message” and things like that, but it makes sense because people are angry about a lot of different things and it makes sense for the to come together. It’s a natural, organic thing for people to congregate together and talk about what they’re angry about and as time goes on hopefully something can happen, but right now it’s kind of in the beginning stage where people are just venting, but that’s natural.
You actually performed at the legendary CBGB’s, what was it like and does that have any extra meaning considering it closed?
I performed there amongst many other places in New York. When I was in high school I was in a punk rock band and we performed at lots of clubs all over NY and CBGB’s was just one of them. We performed at Brownie’s, The Spiral, Wetlands; all these clubs that aren’t around anymore, but honestly CBGB’s at that point wasn’t anything like how it used to be. The heyday was the 70’s but by the 90’s CBGB’s was just like a name. It was cool to play there though, before it closed.
I also heard that you were recently in the studio with Lana Del Rey, what was that experience like?
Well the studio as in my home studio. She came over and we worked on a song a while ago. It was called BBM Baby, I guess it was about her Blackberry Messenger. I also did a remix to one of her songs called Blue Jeans which came out recently and people seem to like that one. Out of all the remixes I’ve ever done, the first one was for Marina and the Diamonds’ song I am Not a Robot and I like that one the best, but I also like the new one I did for Blue Jeans. I think those two are the best remixes that I’ve made. I met her like 2 years ago and hung out with her a bunch in London and New York. She’s funny, she’s a very entertaining person to hang out with, and she has a wonderful singing voice.
When you were younger you linked up with Q-Tip, and eventually worked with Interscope at some point. Do you still have roots in hip-hop?
I definitely got into rap a lot when I was in high school, and sent a demo to Q-Tip. He called me back, met with me, he wanted to start a label and sign me to it so he flew me out to LA and we met with different people, different labels but it didn’t really pan out. Eventually I got signed to Interscope and I made an album which was a combination of many different genres, all mixed together. I was rapping, I was singing, I was doing some songs that were sort of Radiohead-esque, some songs that were more rap, some songs that were pop, and it was sort of hard to understand what to do with it I guess if you’re Interscope records, so it wasn’t released. After that I sort of changed what I was doing and evolved into Penguin Prison.
What do you see the future holding for you as Penguin Prison?
I want P.P. to tour all over the place, as much as possible. I really like to play for people and make them go nuts. I like to go into the crowd and touch people, dance with everyone, wrap my guitar cord around people and make them fall down. I just want to go all around the world and use my music to travel a lot.